Judith Ramlogan | Another side to Ms Aarons’ nightmare’
The Companies Office of Jamaica (COJ) would like to acknowledge the publication of the article 'Companies Office nightmare', written by Patria-Kaye Aarons in the March 21, 2017 edition of The Gleaner.
As always, the agency welcomes, and is guided by, the feedback from our customers in trying to make the process of doing business a more comfortable one. As such, we apologise for the inconvenience caused to Ms Aarons during her interactions with us. We also extend apologies to any other customer who may have had unfortunate experiences.
The COJ continues to address concerns voiced by its clients in a timely manner. It was against this background that we reached out to Ms Aarons by email on March 17, 2017, the same day, that she complained of our rejection policy. We have not received a response to that email to date.
The Companies Office would like to emphasise to present and potential customers that because of the legal nature of its operations, documents submitted for registration may have to be amended for varying reasons. As a registry, the office is duty-bound to ensure that documents accepted for registration are accurate.
Hence, documents submitted are cross-referenced with other data available at this office, and where irregularities are found, the customer is notified and requested to make the requisite changes. COJ representatives are not allowed to make assumptions about the information placed on the forms by clients. Clients whose document submissions have to be amended after multiple attempts are provided with assistance to amend the documents correctly.
In the case of Ms Aarons, the surname of the company secretary was inconsistent with that of the TRN presented and was written in lower case when it should have been written, as indicated on the form, in block letters. The name matching the TRN was 'Marion', instead of 'Nicole', which Ms Aarons had indicated.
Following the rejection of the document, the name was changed to reflect 'Marian'. However, because it was written in cursive script, it was rendered illegible when scanned to the automated registration system for examination. Again, the TRN did not match and, as such, given our policy not to make assumptions, Ms Aarons was notified of this.
Upon her visit to our office, 'Marion' was then written above the previously written 'Marian', without it being crossed out. Hence the document had to be rejected because this time, it reflected 'Marion Marian', again not matching the given TRN. In addition, the proposed start date of incorporation for her company was legally impermissible.
As the sole agency responsible for registering business entities in Jamaica, the COJ has over the years made adjustments to its processes in order to offer customers a one-stop shop experience instead of the multi-agency approach that existed. This effort resulted in the creation of the Business Registration Form, commonly referred to as the Super Form. The creation of the Super Form meant that information could be collected at one point (Companies Office) and shared with all the other government agencies involved in the business start-up process, namely, Tax Administration Jamaica, Ministry of Labour and Social Security, HEART Trust-NTA, and the National Housing Trust.
The Companies Office does acknowledge that the wait time poses a significant challenge to our customers. We are in the process of streamlining our operations, initiating a business process review, conducting more customer engagement, education and sensitisation sessions, as well as looking to relocate some of our operations to other premises to create more space at this location.
The COJ, at all times, tries to ensure that the information collected is correct, as the agency's database is a constant point of reference for the Government, individuals and firms, both local and international. At the same time, the Companies Office, through continued dialogue with our customers and stakeholders, strives to make the business registration process as simple and timely as possible.
The Companies Office is committed to playing its part in facilitating entrepreneurs in registering their businesses as they contribute to growing Jamaica.
- Judith Ramlogan is registrar and CEO of the Companies Office of Jamaica. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.